Russian shopping mall fire kills 64; no alarms reported

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At least 64 people, many of whom are believed to be children, perished in the Siberian city of Kemerovo on Sunday (March 25) as a massive fire swept through a crowded shopping center.

One child penned a final message on social media: "We are burning", wrote 13-year-old Maria Moroz.

Russia's Investigative Committee, which handles major crimes, is looking to bring the shopping centre's owner in for questioning, while four people have already been detained including two employees of the firm that services the alarm system.

The fire, which started Sunday afternoon, has been put out, but rescuers are still struggling to reach the upper floors because the roof of the four-story building collapsed.

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Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, the country's equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, told the news agency TASS that 16 people remained missing. "There were a lot of children, children without parents", said witness Klepova.

The boy's parents and younger sister died in the fire, Ms Skvortsova said.

Officials say that fire alarms did not work, extinguishing systems malfunctioned, doors were locked and the fire announcement was not made over the public PA system. "She said she couldn't escape and couldn't breathe", Yevgeniya Oganesyan told the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.

"As I was running up the stairs, somebody handed me a wet rag, and I used it to cover my nose", Lillevyali said of his attempt to rescue his children.

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One of his daughters "kept calling me and calling me", he continued, speaking through tears.

State news agency Tass reported that a fire at the Zimnyaya Vishnya - also known as Winter Cherry - shopping mall in central Kemerovo broke out on the top floor of a four story building and consumed an area of approximately 1,600 meters. "That movie could have been the last for us, I've only just realized that". "Whole classes of children from nearby villages were there, they were locked in (the cinema)", a witness who gave his name as Konstantin told Business Radio FM.

Meanwhile, Kemerovo region governor Aman Tuleyev, 73, "personally" apologized to President Vladimir Putin for the tragedy but declined to meet the hundreds of furious residents demanding his resignation.

'This isn't war, it's not a spontaneous methane outburst. People came to relax, children.

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Visiting a makeshift memorial of stuffed toys, flowers and candles President Putin admitted he "felt like wailing" over the tragic loss of life in one of the most severe fire disasters to be recorded in Russian Federation this century. "Because of criminal negligence and carelessness".

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